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Dec172009

Dethklok's Dethalbum II is More Metal, Less Dethklok 

Dethalbum II is undoubtedly a great metal album.  

The riffs are both heavy and catchy.  The solos are intense.  The churning beats will have you unable to stop bobbing your head.  

What the album is not is a great Dethklok album.

Dethalbum II sounds to me like what might happen in Dethklok’s fictional universe if lead singer Nathan Explosion were to do a solo album.  The product wouldn’t fall too from from the Dethklok tree, but it would have its own spin to the sound and be, despite the similarities, distinctly un-Dethklok.

Not too unlike the solo album from Serj Tankien of System of a Down, as it happens.

The feeling I get upon listening to Dethalbum II is a little hard to explain.

While listening to the first record, I could get sucked into the universe of the fictional band, as it were.  I could lose myself in the music and believe that Nathan Explosion was singing the vocals straight into my headphones, that a tiny Swisgaar was shredding solos inside of my iPod, and that Pickles was banging away mercilessly on a tiny drum set in my iPhone.  The album felt like it was ripped right out of the TV show and this quality made it unique in the genre, on top of being just a darn good metal record in the first place.

With Dethalbum II, the illusion has sprung a few leaks and a little too much reality has seeped into the proceedings, making for a bit of an uncomfortable listen.

Let me state again for emphasis that this has little to do with the quality of the music, which is better constructed on the whole than on the first album.  Someone with a greater fondness for this genre than I and less of an attachment to the TV show should pick up this album without a second thought and headbang away. 

Unfortunately, death metal is not a genre I tend to frequent, particularly because the generic, often boring, screamed vocals tend to disagree with me.  Dethklok’s spin on the sound, with deep growled vocals and a healthy dose of humor and wackiness, was enough to allow me to really enjoy the music.

The change between album I and II, unfortunately for me, lies in the vocals.  Where the first album adopted a vocal style clearly modeled after that of the TV show’s lead character, the second album is a more “natural” sound, if you will.

What this translates into are vocals that sound not like Dethklok, but more like every other death metal band on the market.  

Why Brendon Small would choose to strip the fictional band of one of their most unique elements, which is to say Nathan Explosion’s humorous low-pitched growls, is a complete mystery to me.  Perhaps he wanted to better mirror his own vocal ability, rather than Nathan’s, but as the front of the album distinctly says “Dethklok”, not “Brendon Small”, it still fails to compute.

To be quite frank, most of the vocals on this record sound absolutely nothing like that of the fictional character the album is supposed to represent.  For a fan of the show like myself, this is hugely distracting.

Making the problem worse is the fact that the album doesn’t seem to be able to decide which approach it wants to take.  Multiple songs on the album switch back and forth between deeper, Nathan-like vocals, and higher, presumably Brendon-like vocals within the same song.

I would find this approach distracting even in an album where I had no preconceptions.  In this instance, however, it’s often too much to take and I have a lot of trouble enjoying the songs for what they are while dealing with the distracting vocal juggling act.

Even the music itself sounds somehow different from last time.  Perhaps more raw, less produced, less outlandish.  

But what is Dethklok if not outlandish?  

The solos are buried just a hair too much in the background and the whole proceeding somehow seems to lose some of the lightheartedness that made the first album so palatable.

Again I find myself slightly disappointed.  

Not to belabor the point, but the higher-pitched, screamed vocals are often ever-so-slightly harder to discern than those on the first album, taking some of the emphasis off of the lyrics and making the sound feel more generic and self-serious in the process.

Clearly this album makes numerous stylistic decisions that don’t sit well with me and that I really can’t even truly understand.

That said, it’s also clearly my preconceptions as to what a “Dethklok album” would be that are hindering my enjoyment.  Had I heard this same music in a different context I likely would have enjoyed it a great deal, although I still would have found the vocal style off-putting. 

It’s going to take many more listenings of this album before I can learn to get past my issues with it and just enjoy the music for what it is, if it’s even possible for a listener such as myself.  Whether or not I could manage this feat I really don’t know, but I do feel that it would be worth the effort.  This is some truly well executed death metal.

But, to me it’s just not Dethklok and it never will be, no matter how many times I listen to it.  

What I really wanted from this album was to get drawn back into the crazy, ultra-violent, fictional world of that completely incompetent metal band I loved to watch on Adult Swim.  What this album gives me is a perfectly enjoyable death metal album made by Brendon Small.  

It’s just not the same.

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Reader Comments (2)

I can agree with hear and there. The whip-lash change of vocals from track to track and get frustrating at first. But recently, I can't listen to the album with out listening to every single track. I appreciate the change now I personally hope you change your mind.

January 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKory F

i seriously aggree with you all the way in fact i think the new album is pretty gay. i think that brendon small is a selfish idiot and he tryed to do his own album in dethkloks name. i have nothing against the actual guys in dethklok if they were in charge it would sound like the last one. but sadly they are cartoons and this blog is worthless

February 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfamousfromoslo

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